The parade route wound down Bergenline Avenue from North Bergen's Braddock Park through West New York before concluding in Union City. El Salvador originally earned its independence from Spain on Sept. 15, 1821.
“This is a great day to show that we care about our country, and to support it,” said Nicole Hernandez, 14, who was designated “Queen of Hato Nuevo” (a country in El Salvador) for the parade, before things stepped off. “It feels amazing.”
Maria Chicas patiently waited on the sidewalk outside Braddock Park for the parade to began, with her El Salvadorian pride burning inside her.
“I love my country with all my heart!” she said. Arriving in the U.S. in 1988, she routinely sends money to her family back home. “We have to help our families,” she said. “We are here to have a better life and work hard.”
Walter Antonio Gonzalez Castaneda, vice consul for the El Salvadorian Consulate in Elizabeth, lives in Union County, but had to visit to celebrate his roots. “This is our heritage,” he said. “This is our second year doing this, and this is what we want to share.”
Such events are useful in combating negative stereotypes about El Salvador, Castaneda said. “We want to show the people, the world, that El Salvadorian people make up a hardworking community,” he added. “We're entrepreneurs, business owners. It's not only criminal and gangs and violence. We have Salvadorian pride and we're proud to be Latino.”
As the parade headed downtown to his municipality, Union City Mayor Brian Stack commented on what the parade means to North Hudson communities. He was selected to be the grand marshall this year.
“It's great to be here and I'm glad to be honored by the parade,” Stack said, walking alongside his commissioners.
“The Salvadorian community is a big and growing community in Union City,” he said. “We’re very grateful for all they bring to the community, and it just goes to show you the greatness of immigration, what this country is built on.”
Other participants included Claudia Canjura, the Salvadorian ambassador to the U.S., and Ana Lorena, consul to El Salvador.
North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco was another special guest, along with West New York Mayor Dr. Felix Roque, and his Chief of Staff Jonathan Castaneda. Additional participants included Freeholder Anthony Vainieri and North Bergen and West New York commissioners.
The Hispanic United Veterans led the procession.
Hannington Dia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org